An April morning, or maybe March, my children and I were enjoying the medium-low sunlight, when my son, Jacob, found a roly-poly. We congregated and proclaimed it a fine representation of its species, clumsy in its armor, as if playing dress up in its grandfather’s old army coat, and concluded that it was most likely on its way home from a sleepover, whereupon I returned to my writing, they to their explorations. A few seconds later I turned my head to a quick succession of three strikes: the first soft, the second and third with a consecutively sharper snap. Jacob crushing the roly-poly with a golf ball to a gray paste.
A stunned second and then I was yelling, “What are you doing? No No!” and sent him on a big timeout. This from my gentle boy, my movie-time snuggler – this unprovoked devastation, exercise in the superiority of breadth, unfortunate example that even the sweetest boy will instinctually destroy what differs from himself.
Crying not just from my admonishing but because he really didn’t know why he had done it, head in his killer’s hands, smear of the murdered insect and the crushing ball at his feet
My daughter, Olivia, sauntered over and inspected the pulpy remains of the roly-poly. “Oh,” she said, her voice skipping over a pool of sadness, and then standing before the penitent boy on his timeout, began berating him, “No Jacob, No!” Her tone transcended her usual bossiness, and was not a mere mimicry of my tone, but rang of something deeper, something issuing from her that was innately feminine, of unprotected life and the mourning of common tragedy; she who insisted upon vanquishing every spider from the house was whipping my son with words, her body jerking with spite.
Chilled now in the warm yard a sister waits for her brother’s apology.
Josh’s stories have been published in several literary journals, a couple receiving Pushcart Prize nominations. His books include the seriocomic novel Alexander Murphy’s Home for Wayward Celebrities and the collection My Governor’s House and other stories.
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